Posts Tagged ‘hope’

Asaph was struggling–or at least he was remembering a time he had been.  People don’t say things like, “…I was in distress,” or “… my soul refused to be comforted,” or “I was too troubled to speak” (things would have to be really, really horrible for me to get to that last one!) unless they’re having a tough time of it.  It had gotten to the point where he was beginning to have doubts about the big things:  “Has God’s unfailing love vanished forever?…Has His promise failed for all time?  Has God forgotten to be merciful?”

As all of this tumbled out of his heart to his mind and to his mouth, Asaph had an “Aha!” moment.  Bubbling up through all that rot was something on which he could get a grip and to which he could cling:  “the years of the right hand of the Most High.”  Figuratively, the right hand was the place from where good came.  It was a place of favor.  Asaph, in a flash of recall, didn’t lock on a single event, but instead flipped through the rolodex of time.  He began to “remember the deeds of the LORD… [His] miracles of long ago.”

Maybe he remembered the giant building project that God had set for a certain Noah and his sons–a boat bigger than anyone had ever seen or heard of, to save from a degree of destructiveness no one could fathom, brought about by the agency of an amount of water that was unthinkable.  God preserved that one little family and a boatful of animal pairs for the continuation of humanity and of His creation.   Maybe Asaph thought about the time, just as his forefather Abraham had been about to slit the throat of his son Isaac because God had told him to offer the boy as a sacrifice and it was Abraham’s habit to do what God said, that a loud bleat of a ram caught in a thicket nearby had been God’s way of being a Rescuer in a different way, providing a sacrifice that wasn’t a dearly loved son, just at the time when Abraham needed Him to come through, but not a moment sooner.

There had been miracles, too.  Water that did funny things like turn from bitter to sweet when a stick was thrown into it, or that came out of a rock when a man named Moses struck it, or, for goodness sake! that blew up into giant walls on both sides of a dry path made right through the middle of a sea!  Donkeys that talked, days made longer by the sun standing still, and a young boy given strength to kill a lion and a bear and, finally, a giant, with the unsophisticated weaponry that was a simple sling and a few rocks.

By the time Asaph has mentally visited a few of these “memorials” from his nation’s past or maybe some from a nearer, more personal time in his own or his immediate family’s life, his heart is singing a different tune:  “What God is so great as our God?…With your mighty arm You redeemed your people.”  He’s really on a roll now, enumerating nature’s response to this Almighty One: writhing, convulsing waters; resounding thunder; flashing lightning; quaking earth.  He recognizes the Unseenness of the One whose power can’t help but be seen if we are looking:  “Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

For all that, the personal touch of this mighty God in whom Asaph’s confidence has been restored by considering what he’s seen is not lost on him:  “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”  In that simple declaration, God’s tender shepherd qualities and the fact that He often works His wonders and His will through human agency are acknowledged.


These are the things that I pondered as I reflected on Psalm 77 this morning.  It made me think again of a song lyric that comes to my mind often–“We’ll praise Him for all that is past and trust Him for all that is to come.”  In those moments when life’s low times would grab at my feet and threaten to keep me under till I’m overwhelmed and drowning because of the weightiness of living in this place that sometimes lacks light and harmony and beauty, I must do what Asaph did.  I must consider what I’ve seen.  When I do, the low times let go and I rise to the surface to breathe in the beautiy of life in the sun, with a buoyancy that will let me get to a place of looking up, of rescue, of going on with hope and assurance.


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We are gathered around the table–five women whose lives have been upended in some measure by the closure of the university.  Four are faculty wives; three of us are stay-at-home moms.  One lady is a faculty member.  The reports vary:  jobs are in hand for two families;  three job contacts in one day for another (we say YAY!); and a couple more are acting and waiting…a job in itself.  We are here to share life and to talk to God about it around this table.  We’ve been doing so for the past several months.

Our hostess opens her Bible, and our hearts, scattered here and there by our various specific circumstances yet bound together by our common one, are washed over and settled down with the flood of these truths from God’s mouth:

I know what I’m doing.  I have it all planned out–plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.  When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.  When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.  Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

As we pray, it occurs to me that, even though those verses were originally given to a group of people who had been exiled from their home land, they were not words for only then–or for only now.  God never changes, and He desires our hearts toward Him and our trust in Him to be always steadfast–regardless of the circumstances.

Anchoring–those truths are anchoring.  A shower song this morning starts “Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?”  I didn’t know this, but an anchor doesn’t always do its job just by virtue of its weight.  It keeps the vessel in place by that means OR “by its flukes, which grip the bottom”, according to Webster.  Looking up “fluke”, I find that it is “the triangular blade at the end of an arm of an anchor, designed to catch in the ground.” (Triangular–good for my analogy…)

Truth digs in and hangs on.  What truth is anchoring you today?

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The sudden loss of my young friend Rachel this past Saturday night (see my previous post) made me think about a sudden loss of my own.  Five years ago this same weekend, we arrived home from Sunday morning church to a phone message from my brother-in-law, saying there was a family emergency and we should call Michael’s brother.  The news we received when the call was returned changed our lives forever:  Michael’s mom had collapsed and died that morning in the folks’ bathroom.  That was all.  Just like that.  No warning. No illness.  (She was 86, so there are always cumulative life effects at that stage in one’s body, but, there was nothing chronic or immediate that had signaled this event.)  We had spent the weekend before that celebrating as a family.  It was Easter and my father-in -law’s 90th birthday–it had been a wonderful, sweet time together.

I have not experienced a great deal of loss in my almost-54 years, but I must say that those days were some of the darkest of my life to date.  In remembering, I  have pondered the reasons why sudden losses hurt so much:

1)  We always think we  have more time.  Most of don’t wake up every day thinking, “This could be my last day on earth” or “This could be my last day with _______ ” (fill in the names of the ones you love).  Maybe we should.  (A friend today told me how her thinking has been challenged by a book titled One Month to Live.  I’ve noticed on Facebook this week several friends sending simple love messages to their spouses–have they, too, been impacted by Rachel’s death in remembering that we have no guarantee of more time?  That one thing could give meaning to something that seems otherwise so senseless.)

2)  We haven’t had time to let go gradually.  When someone is leaving us through the changes of gradual aging or even through illness or disease, we only are asked to let go of bits at a time.  We have the chance to get used to “new normal” incrementally.  Sudden loss wrenches life from our midst and everything changes at once.  We are left in a state of disorientation, and time does not stand still to allow us to get our footing before taking another step.

3)  We are faced with our own immortality.  We are forced to think, “Next time it could be me or (another) one of mine,” and we mourn for our own projected losses.

These are hard things.  If they were not, we would not be human.

But here is a thought–maybe I will post more later on these, but if I don’t–well then, here is a thought:  Each of those reasons is like a dark room.  Yet, outside, the sun is shining.  How I move beyond and out of the dark room, ceasing to live there, will depend on whether I choose to–at some point, a point which may not be the same for me as it is for you–get up and lift the shade or open the door to let some of that light penetrate the place hemmed in by the pain of loss.  Different people have different means for letting in the light.  In my personal experience and observations, faith will eventually move me toward the window every time.

Yes, definitely more later…

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Have you had the experience of seeing new possibilities one day, when the day before they were nowhere in sight?  That happened to me this week, through an entirely serendipitous circumstance.  The thing that is amazing is that the pivotal point involved going out on a limb, taking a chance, risking. 

When I reread that last sentence, I realize that quite possibly that “going out on a limb, taking a chance, risking” was, in reality, listening to that Still Small Voice within–obeying the Holy Spirit, as we talk about it in my church. 

A friend recently remarked to me that she is just learning–or perhaps relearning–to live in recognition of the fact that God is with her in, and wants to be part of, every detail in her life.  It has made a world of difference in how she approaches loss, need, confusion, and loneliness.  She has begun to “watch, look, and listen”–something we are taught to do as children for our physical safety when we cross streets.  Does anyone ever tell us how needful those practices are for our spiritual wellbeing? 

My 3 words for 2009 are “delight, see, and listen” based loosely on Psalm 37:4 and–I can’t recall right this second where it is found in the Bible–but another verse from the Psalms that tells me to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  One thing so far that I am finding is that the focus brought by those three words opens me up to new possibilities–in my own life and in those of others.

Today as I was playing through a section of my Christmas present hymn book–thank you, Michael!– I came upon a song that was new to me several years ago at Easter time.  With thanks to my friend Susi Jones who first shared it with me, I pass it along here for any who might be bogged down by winter, by discouragement, by confusion, or loss…with the prayer that it will serve to lift your eyes and open your ears to possibilities that await.

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise:  butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
Natalie Sleeth, 1986

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Our family sits in the balcony during Sunday morning worship at church.  My voice stops and my eyes wander during one of the songs being sung.  Around and below me I see

  • A couple who will soon be relocating from the town where they’ve spent the bulk of their married years, spending their last Sundays at the church where they’ve embraced friendship, leaned on those friends during a wife’s bout with cancer, and raised their children–leaving for another job because the husband’s place of employment has announced it is closing
  • Two parents whose sons have plucked their heart strings gutwrenchingly in the past couple of years by the choices they have made
  • A young couple who has spent a year in the ups and downs of unemployment and juggling the alternatives for keeping a pay check coming and keeping the family on an even keel
  • A family home for a year from a mission to university students in Spain’s Canary Islands.  They have to spend many hours and miles on the road sharing what they do with the prayer that people will think it is worthwhile enough to invest in it  financially.
  • A single mom
  • A faithful senior couple who have dealt with the uncertainties of a cancer diagnosis in the past year
  • Junior year college students who are engaged to be married after graduation, but who have had to majorly adjust life plans for the next year because their university is closing
  • An elderly couple who have physical mobility problems and are wondering how much longer they can remain in the house which they’ve lovingly made their home for over thirty years
  • Parents of a troubled teen who has been separated from them by many miles for close to a year in order to be in a place where he can receive help
  • A grad student who isn’t sure what life holds for him when he finishes his degree this spring
  • My own dear husband standing beside me, who celebrates a birthday this week and doesn’t know what his job will be after May 31st, when his will end

I come back to the song we are singing and, fresh from taking in the circumstances of the people around me, I feel tears coming, for the words they–we–are singing proclaim

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my Light, my Strength, my Song;
This Cornerstone, this Solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All-in-all–
Here in the life of Christ I stand.

I pay attention in my neighborhood and at Wal-Mart, I turn on the radio, I catch the late-night news–and the story is the same all around:  there are a lot of people living in shades of gray to black these days.  And there are a lot of talking heads countering the articulation of the bleakness with words like “change” and “hope”.  But there is this that is not being said:  When the curtains are pulled back to reveal the plans for that change and hope, the same gray cloud appears. 

There is no politician’s plan, no legislative action, no peace accord signed with the best pen money can buy, that can offer the change and hope people seek–need– in times like these.  My tears in the middle of the song were for longing met, for the singers were describing what appears when their curtains of gray and black are pulled back.  It is indeed a sight to behold.

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Punctuated Life

In a little flash of whimsy, I ended the annual Christmas letter thus:  “As we anticipate 2009, there are lots of question marks.  But there is one huge “period”:  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”–and there are many, MANY exclamation marks of praise to a God who is awesome, perfect in His knowledge of us, and unbounded in His love for His children.  All of that lets us face an uncertain future with great hope and with peace in believing that His best for us will come about as we trust and obey Him.  In a world that sometimes finds that whole concept to be nothing other than wishful thinking, we pray that the message of Christmas–“God loved us and sent His Son”–will find a fresh home in many hearts in this season we celebrate.”

What question marks are punctuating your today?  Are there “periods” that anchor your faith?  What exclamation marks of praise renew your perspective and give you hope?  Anyone care to share?

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Yesterday, my husband’s place of employment announced it will essentially close its doors at the end of this academic year.  http://fw.taylor.edu/home/news/news_detail.shtml?inode=77392   After having worked there for 23 years, needless to say, this translates to big changes ahead.  Once the initial “trickles” found their way down my cheeks (there may be more tears to come, possibly of the dam bursting variety, but I am just one of those people who emotes via my tear ducts–poor Zach!  He is distressed by it, but I realized yesterday that maybe I should tell my teenage son that this is a good husband training opportunity–learning how to handle a woman’s tears!), I began to reflect.  I am encouraged that the thankfulnesses, the glass half full moments, the little glimmers of exciting times that just might lie ahead have been able to break through the initial potential for despair and, at least at this moment, seem to be tipping the balance toward hope.

Reasons for hope in place of despair?

1)  We are in the same boat many have found themselves in–only ours is much bigger than some have had.  We have eight months of employment ahead of us–time to pray, to seek, to plan.

2)  We have a support network.  An almost instant email after the announcement became public, a call from one of our small group friends, comments on Facebook–all words of encouragement, assurances of prayers.  And we don’t travel the journey alone–many have expressed their sadness at the death of a dream, the feeling of loss, yet in the same breath comes an expression of confidence because…

3)  The God who brought us to Fort Wayne Bible College/Summit Christian College/Taylor University (same institution of higher education, three different chapters of its history) is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.  Though we did not see this coming at this time, He has known it from eternity.  He has been shaping us in ways we haven’t realized, getting us ready for this exact crossroad.  He will show us which path to take, has already packed our bags with what we will need for the journey, and has promised to be our guide.

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